Don McPeak-US PRESSWIRE
The Tennessee Lady Vols start their two-game Lone Star State swing against the Longhorns.
TV: FSN / SportSouth
Internet Stream: NOOOOOPE
Internet Radio: Lady Vol Network
Live Stats: GameTracker
Two games into the sesven-game nonconference stretch of doom, and the Lady Vols are holding up well. After a closer-than-it-ever-should-have-been overtime win against MTSU (seriously, are in-state teams Kryptonite or something?), the Lady Vols ran North Carolina off the floor, taking the Tar Heels' own style of play and bludgeoning them into submission with it. Now the battle of the abbreviation continues in Austin with two top-20 teams. As with most opponents, it's a series that Tennessee leads comfortably, though Texas has kept it respectable at 21-12.
First, let's look at Texas:
- The team is led by sophomore forward Nneka Enemkpali and junior guard Chassidy Fussell (from Troy, TN). Nneka is averaging a very solid double-double with 17.9 ppg and 12.9 rpg.
- Texas is averaging over 53 rpg as a team. (!!!)
- But, Texas is also at 225 in RPI, so it's really hard to tell how good they are at the moment. They did lose to a top 20 UCLA team, managing only 24% shooting.
- But even in the UCLA loss, they outrebounded the Bruins. Without having seen Texas play, it seems they sell out for rebounds, a trend to expect in the game today.
- Texas has committed over 24 turnovers per game, despite having a lot of cupcakes on the schedule.
- Andraya Carter is out for a while due to a torn labrum in her shoulder.
- The two-week layoff is unusually long for college basketball. Tennessee is a very young team. There is potential for this to end poorly if they didn't manage themselves well over the last couple weeks.
- Tennessee's best chances are in an up-tempo, run the floor game. Getting steals and transition points can nullify the tenacious rebounding by Texas.
- Speaking of rebounding: can Harrison, Graves, and Burdick outperform the Longhorns? If so, this game's over.
- Texas may be prone to shooting slumps in the face of good defense. Chassidy Fussell is really the only solid three-point shooter they have, so if she can be contained, a zone defense might lock the Longhorns down (albeit at risk of losing some rebounds).
It's very difficult to read much on this Lady Vols team after a long break, so I really have no idea what to expect from them. A victory will likely come with some stretches of good Simmons, Graves in Beast Mode, and continued solid play from Kamiko to make up for the absence of Carter. A loss would come if Harrison and/or Graves get in foul trouble very early, if Simmons goes into Meth Mode, or if the interior players can't match up on the boards.
My biggest CANHAZWANTNAO for the game? To see Nneka in early foul trouble, removing the primary Texas rebounding and scoring threat. Not only would that seriously tilt this game in Tennessee's favor, but it would mean that Harrison and Graves outplayed a good post team, which would just be great for the remaining schedule.
But all in all, I think Tennessee is deeper, better, and has been tested by more quality teams, and I hope that will overcome any rust.
Prediction: UT 75, Texas 67